After a few moments, the bell rang, indicating that class should be starting. It never did start on time. Alice hated how class started late to give a cushion to those who couldn't be bothered to make it on time. All of them were privileged enough to get an education, and to live in a world where they had cars or buses. They all had enough to eat, and families and clothes and places to sleep at night, but they couldn't show enough respect for their teachers or fellow students. She could never show it though, she thought with a sigh. After a few more minutes of inactivity, and two more students filing in, Mrs. Kendrick finally started giving out instructions.
"Today's schedule will be a little different than most days," she began. "As I'm sure most of you know, usually you will go to your first period class before coming here for a fifteen minute period for announcements. Instead, for today, you'll go to the full length classes in order after this one."
"Now, on to the important part. I'll be calling you up alphabetically to get your schedules. Steven Anderson?"
Mrs. Kendrick went through the list. Alice watched as each student was called up. She twisted her hair around her finger, waiting for her name to be called, or to get a new vision, a new mission. No flashes came, nothing overwhelming her momentarily.
"Alice Warner?" Mrs. Kendrick finally finished. Alice was, alphabetically, last as usual. She didn't even have to think about it anymore as she flounced up to get her schedule. People whispered a bit, but nothing she could pick out. And nothing that she had to react to. She smiled apologetically as she took the schedule from Mrs. Kendrick, but the teacher didn't understand. None of them ever did, she thought, sighing mentally.
She perked up though when she got back to her seat. There wasn't anyone in this class that was evil though. No one who was judged. That was a plus at least.
Mrs. Kendrick was fielding foolish questions about today's schedule when the bell rang.
Alice grabbed her books and started from class. Hopefully she would be able to get to class without being on display out in the hall too much.
It wasn't to be though. As she got to the hub, the intersection of hallways that led to the different wings of the school, it was filling up with people. Alice glanced at her schedule. She needed to get to C wing. The choices were to cut back where she had come and circle back outside or to go through the hub. The hub, which was now filled with people. At this point, Alice realized she'd probably be late if she went around. And she shouldn't shrink from any test. So she plunged into the crowd.
People were everywhere. Some of them were bumping into her, touching her by mistake, but a few hands reached out to pinch her, or squeeze her. Alice wasn't seeing faces though. The whole crowd filled her mind with a rushing noise. A thousand images of her own screams, and the screams of the unrighteous filled her head. She saw smoke and ash and memories of what had happened to her and suddenly she was free, she'd made it to the other side of the crowd. Alice collapsed against a wall for a moment, gasping for breath. Crowds. Anything but crowds. Gradually, she got her breathing under control. Taking another second, she made sure that no one had bothered to mark on her, or put on some sort of prank sign. It had happened before while she was seeing. She was unmolested though. Alice she straightened her bag on her shoulder, and headed to her history class.
Mr. Jenkins, an elderly black man, with a grey and white beard, taught her history class. She had had him freshman year, but doubted that he would recognize her. Especially given how she had changed. He did allow everyone to pick their own seats though. This presented Alice with a dilemma. She really should have foreseen it, but she hadn't given it any thought. At the time, she had been concerned only with her mission, only with carrying out divine justice and making the world a better, safer place. But Alice didn't have anyone to sit with. When she had started changing, her old friends had drifted away. She had wanted to keep them around, but it was better for everyone, and better for her mission, if she let them go. Plus, she had immediately been brought into a new crowd. A richer, more privileged one. One that had unchaperoned parties, that went out drinking. A group that needed justice, and fear put back into them.
When her first boyfriend had disappeared, along with his best friend, off in the woods somewhere, everyone had thought it a tragic accident. She'd grieved with the rest of them, and actually ended up closer with the group than before it had happened. She had been taken into more trust, and had seen that not all of them were evil. Some of them were scared and confused. Others were getting forced into doing things they disliked. Those ones were not to be spared if they were in the way, but were not to be actively sought out either. And some had been shown to her to be evil. When the second boy who had been involved with her had died in a house fire, they asked her if she wanted to go see a councilor, while calling her a jinx behind her back and making sure to keep a distance.
Now there was a third boy who had seemed to be getting close to her. And he had died in a house fire. Just like the second before him. Just like the first and his friend had been burned, though their remains had never been found.
They stayed away from her now. Everyone seemed to draw back when she entered the room. No one would welcome her in a seat by them. Not now. So she went to a seat in the back. It was in a corner, and it had no one sitting in the one desk that was by it. That was fine. She wanted to be alone anyway. She just had never been allowed to by the role before. She sighed as the bell rang again, signaling the beginning of class time. No one had taken the seat next to her, and Alice put her head down on her desk to allow herself a moment to celebrate. A whole semester, maybe a whole year, with no one to bother her! No one to hurt her, and no one for her to hurt.
She heard the door open and close again, as one of those perpetually late students arrived.
Mr. Jenkins had been about to begin, and turned towards the new arrival. "You're late, Mister...."
"Summers," said the new arrival. "Eli Summers. I'm sorry. I didn't know my way around. I just moved to Armwood."
Alice's head snapped up. New things were not good to her. She needed consistency, not new problems sprouting up like weeds.
"Well, I'll let it slide since it's the first day," Mr. Jenkins was saying to a lanky brown haired boy. "Don't make a habit of it."
The boy stood there for another moment, clearly unsure whether he was dismissed or not. Mr. Jenkins decided to help him out. "Take any open seat. It'll be yours for the year, barring some sort of behavioral problem."
"Ok," said the youth. He turned, and headed toward the first open seat, which was in the second row. He started to put his stuff down, but as his bag made contact with the desk, he froze. He turned around from the seat he had been about to take, and looked right at Alice.
As his brown eyes met hers, she realized that she had been staring. Perhaps stare was the wrong word. She'd been looking at him with a glare of disgust and fear. And now he had caught her. He picked back up the black book bag he had set down, and, on the crest of a wave of conspiratorial whispers, weaved through the seats to the one desk by Alice.
"Is this seat taken, ma'am?" he asked, stopping by open seat.
Yes, Alice screamed in her head. It's taken. Don't come anywhere near me! Run!
"No, there's no one sitting there," she answered.
"Would you mind if I sit here?" he asked as if he needed her permission, and the first question wasn't enough.
"Oh, that's," terrible awful horrible, "fine," she responded. She smiled, as the role said she should. He wasn't bad looking. He didn't look like he cared about his appearance overly much, and kind of needed a haircut if you were picky, but he certainly seemed nice enough that a girl in her situation ought to smile at his attention and mannerism.
"Thanks," he said, sitting down. Mr Jenkins began passing around text books.
"Pass them back," he said. "And I'll pass around a sign up sheet for you all to fill out your book number on." The brown text books began making their way across the room. When it came time for Alice to get one, the girl in front of her turned, then dropped the book on the floor between the two desks.
"Oops," she said sarcastically. Alice ignored her, and leaned over her desk to grab the book. She new that she must have been putting on quite a show for the new guy, and turned to look at him quickly. He had actually turned away, so that he wasn't looking up her nearly nonexistent skirt. Alice snatched up the book, then quickly returned to a more normal seated position.
"Sorry," she apologized, blushing slightly.
"For what?" he answered, apparently content to act as if nothing the least bit awkward had just happened. A course syllabus came around next, this time without any incident.
Mr. Jenkins had launched into his standard beginning of the year speech as this all happened. "I know that this is an AP course, and I realize that most of you are concerned with how you will do on that test, if you are concerned with anything at all. I am not. I'm only concerned with what you learn, and what knowledge you can demonstrate to me. If you do well in my class, well, no one who received a B or above has ever gotten less than a five on the AP exam. But I don't..."
"Someone who doesn't teach to the test," whispered the boy, Eli, beside her. "How refreshing."
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye.
"Are you being sarcastic?" she finally whispered back.
"What? No. I just hate how everything is so standardized. I'd rather just learn."
As much as Alice wanted to do well and get out of here, she had always felt the same way. "Me too."
"Really?" he said. He held his hand out, below the level of the desks, so that the teacher probably wouldn't see. "Elijah Summers."
"Alice Warner," she said, clasping his hand.
"Nice to meet you, Alice," he said, politely shaking her hand.
She didn't hear a word of it. She saw a vision of herself screaming, like she had all the other times, then one of him, bursting into flames, smoke pouring out of every orifice as he burnt away from the inside.
She smiled at him. She had been shown her new mission, another predator who needed to be brought to justice.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Elijah."